Challenge Team Interim Report

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    Team Number: 069

    School Name: Ruidoso High School

    Area of Science: Geography

    Project Title: Return To Gondwanaland

Final Report

Have you ever looked at a map of the world and then focused on the eastern seaboard of South America and the western seaboard of Africa and wondered if those continents were ever actually put together as one continent? This is a question that many people ask themselves and even though there is no way to tell for sure, people can tell that the continents are drifting away from one and other. This drifting is what is called continental drift. More specifically, the continents are drifting at a very slow pace and in a constant direction, away from each other.

Continental drift is the hypothetical slow movement of the continents on a deep-seated, viscous zone within the earth. They were believed to be connected, at one time, as a single "supercontinent." There are three major pieces of evidence that support the theory of continental drift: continental match, fossil match, and vegetation and mineral match.

The first major piece of evidence of Continental Drift is the continental match. If you were to look at a map of the world, the East Coast of South America and the West Coast of Africa appear to match. There are more matches throughout the Earth, but they take a little more imagination. Another part of continental match is flooding. Flooding explains continental drift without having to resort to far-fetched ideas that the continents moved so far and in so many directions. There used to be only shallow seas and broad rivers. When the flood occurred, the basins filled with water then sank, and the continental masses arose forming the beginning of continental drift.

Fossil match is another piece of the evidence that supports the idea of continental drift. Fossils found in Antarctica match some of those found on some other continents. Similar plants and animals were found on all the continents. If the masses were not connected at one time, there could be no way for these type of plants and animals to travel over an ocean that large.

Another fact supporting the idea of continental drift is the vegetation and mineral match. Similar vegetation has been found on the East Coast of South America and the West Coast of Africa. There are diamond fields in South Africa and a few in South America. This is thought to be strong evidence that the two landmasses were once connected.

Directly beneath the Earth's crust is a series of plates that "float" and cause continental drift. This is known as plate tectonics. Since the Earth's crust moves, these plates collide and pull apart and therefore create mountain ranges and other things that are related. The Earth's climate, chemical changes in the oceans, and the air that life forces breathe has been dramatically changed over the years of existence. Even the landmasses have been changed. Through the Earth's plates colliding, the Rocky Mountains took shape, when the North American plate collided with the Pacific plate. The American plate overrode the Pacific plate and formed the mountains. As the plate beneath India and the plate beneath Asia collided, the Himalayan Mountains were formed. With the movement of the crust, earthquakes and volcanoes occur. Mt. St. Helen's is an example of this geological stress.

The first man to propose continental drift was Alfred Wegner. Wegner theorized that if South America and Africa had been joined at one time, there would be similar geological formations such as mountain ranges that would extend from one continent across the boundary of another continent. There would be fossils of extinct animals and plants distributed across the boundary. Wegner carried out many successful expeditions of such evidence. Mountain chains were found. Fossil distribution patterns and glacial patterns support the idea. He proposed the supercontinent called "Pangea" in 1912. His ideas came from measurements of the magnetism of rocks. When molten rock cools near a magnet, magnetic particles are trapped in the orientation imposed upon them by the magnetic field. Preserved evidence of the Earth's magnetic field showed that the continents were moving although there was still a mechanism missing.

The center of each major ocean was found to have a ridge with a valley as the center. Parallel stripes of rocks were found to opposite attractions of magnetism. The pattern on one side was the mirror image of the other side. This finding led Harry H. Hess to the proposal of sea-floor spreading in 1960.

Molten rock is continuously released and cools to form the ridge. It records the magnetic field as it solidifies. Each side has the same record magnetic field because the rock spreads to each side. Since new crust is being formed and has to be consumed somewhere, Hess proposed that this happens at deep sea trenches where the oceanic crust "dives" under a continent. These magnetic properties demonstrate the movement of the continents. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is an ocean ridge that rings the globe. It traverses around the globe at about 80,000 kilometers. North America and Europe are being pushed apart along this ridge. They are drifting apart at a rate of four centimeters per year. Convection currents, caused by semi-molten rock heating and rising, pull the Earth's crust apart. Where the plates separate, rift valleys form. When a rift valley is deep enough, the sea floods it and it becomes an ocean.

The code that we are going to use is just an example of how the final program will be presented. To start off with, there are two preprocessor directives, iostream.h and math.h. The iostream directive controls the input/output stream, to the monitor and from the keyboard. The math directive helps in controlling accurate processing of the math in the program. This is an unnecessary directive for the example program but it will be needed in the final version.

Following the preprocessor directives, all of the variables needed are declared. Almost every variable has been predefined. This is done because it helps serve this code's purpose as an example of our final program.

The program then displays some description about itself and then about the continent that it will use. Following this, a question about what year to calculate for is asked. If a year is entered that is less than what is presented in the variable "cur_year", an error message is displayed and the question is repeated. This is done until a correct year is entered. Upon entering an acceptable year, the program will then proceed to calculate the new coordinates based on the predefined variables.

The output presents both the old coordinates and the new coordinates to use as a comparison. This is done in order to allow easier determination of the change from the defined year. Upon presenting the output the code returns a null zero to the operating system and proceeds to exit. The following is code we are using to serve out purposes.

	// This is the C++ beginning of the Team 069 Super Computing Challenge
	// program about calculating continental drift.
	// This will be accomplished by programming our own coordinate system.
	// The continent that we will use will be thoroughly described later.
	// This is just the beginning!
	void main();
	  const char opening_message = "-----------------------------------\n Welcome to Return
					to Gondwanaland \n-----------------------------------\n
					\n -- A program that calulates\nContinental Drift using 
					a made up, flat-plane coordinate system\nas well as a 
					made up rectangular continent.\n";
	  const char continent_name = "Team 069 -- NMSCC '98\n";
	  const char continent_description = "The continent is a square with an area of 36 
						square units(6 x 6)\nIt sits on a flat plane\n
						It's direction is constantly 180 degrees(S)\n
						It's speed is a constant 5 units/year/nThe 
						current year is 1998"\n\n\n;
	  const char vector_name = "continent 1";
	  const int cur_year = 1998
	  const int x_coord = 26;
	  const int y_coord = 32;
	  const int vector_velocity = 5;
	  const int vector_direction = 180;
	  int new_year;
	  int new_x_coord;
	  int new_y_coord;
	  int math_year;
	  int y_distance;
	  int x_distance;
	  cout << opening_message;
	  cout << continent_name;
	  cout << continent_descrition;
	  cout << Please type the year you want to calculate for -- ";
	  cin >> new_year;
	   while (new_year <= cur_year)
	    cout << "Error: year must be greater than the current year!\n";
	    cout << "Please type the year -- \n\n";
	    cin >> new_year;
	  math_year = new_year - cur_year;
	  y_distance = vector_velocity * math_year;
	  new_y_coord = y_coord - y_distance;
	  cout << "The old coordinates were, (" << x_coord << "," << y_coord << ")\n";
	  cout << "The new coordinates are, (" << x_coord << "," << new_y_coord << ")";
	 return 0;

Alfred Wegner first proposed continental drift in 1912. He proposed three main pieces of evidence to support his theory of continental drift. Using these three main points as well as other theories gathered through research, it is possible to calculate continental drift. In its current state, the program is unable to properly calculate continental drift. With some work it will advance and have the ability of being able to calculate continental drift with substantial accuracy. Continental Drift may not be one of the world's most important problems, but it may prove to be useful in the future.

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